Strap yourselves in for some nineties nostalgia and a bucketload of obscenities – Jerry Springer: The Opera is back in town.
Inspired by the infamous American talk show hosted by Springer this – fittingly – riotously funny show is packed full of very rude songs that parody the guests and contrived situations that made the programme a household name around the world, and inspired dozens of copycat shows.
Although deliberately over the top, the scenarios don’t diverge that much from the show’s genuine guests and baying audience, whether its the fiancé who has cheated on his betrothed with not just another woman but also a man, or the woman whose dream of being a pole dancer risks her being disowned by her mother and her titty-bar frequenting husband.
Things take a scatological turn when the adult babies turn up – if you’re not likely to find a song about pooping your pants funny, this probably isn’t for you.
The second half takes a surreal turn when, following a probably accidental shooting, Jerry descends into first Purgatory and then Hell to host a special episode dealing with the broken relationships between Satan, Jesus, Mary and God, and (sort of) resolving things with the words of William Blake. This is way funnier than it might sound.
There are some great throwback moments – I haven’t heard “talk to the hand” for year – but some of Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas’ jokes haven’t fared quite so well, with changing attitudes to sexuality.
The show is genuinely an opera and offers some challenging numbers. The Sound Ideas cast rise to the occasion magnificently, with great vocals particularly from Emma Seamarks, Laura Marvel, Emmie Wright, and Chris Brown.
There is fantastic character work from Leo Oakley as Satan, Becca Jillings as Shawntel, and Daniel Smith as Jesus. As Jerry himself Thom Bailey has a surprisingly low-key part, but he pulls things together with a pleasingly folksy feel.
Musical supervisor Will Arundell and director Dan Smith have done a great job pulling together a tricky show both in its musicality and its subject matter.
Final thought: This show is never going to appeal to everyone – it’s too rude and too sharp for that – but for those with a darker sense of humour and an ear for song, this is a real treat.
- Sound Ideas production of Jerry Springer: The Opera continues at Norwich Theatre Playhouse until Saturday, 10 September 2023.